Koya Ryujin Skyline
Obviously, Ryujin michi no eki is silent as the grave with only a little more light. The 24 hour toilet is terrible. The door to the handicapped facility is broken and does not close. I cannot recommend the place for shachuhaku. Of course, it is possible to stay, just lower your expectations
Koyasan is our destination for the day and we drive the Koya Ryujin skyline (R.371). This is a good road, of sweeping views, from Ryujin to Koyasan Okunoin.
Gomadansan (Mt.Gomadan) 護摩壇山
Along the skyline, at Gomadansan, the second highest mountain in Wakayama, we stop to take a short walk through the beech woods to the summit. This walk to the top is only 500 metres and, though there was a chill wind, it was very pleasant. The view of the surrounding mountains, through the lattice of branches stripped of leaves, magnificent.
There was a good deal of typhoon damage noticeable all around. Large trees uprooted, and others shattered by the force of the wind.
Among the dead leaves we find a curious puff ball. A small white sphere but, with a brown, white speckled, star shaped base. It was first for me.
By the car park there is hideous viewing tower which we did not go up.
Koyasan, Daimon 高野山 大門
Midday finds us at Koyasan. Although it is a Saturday, parking is plentiful near Daimon. Daimon is the gate for Koyasan and a building I like very much. The colour is subdued, and the lines are solid simple elegance. Then there are the imposing Niousama. These are the two, menacing, figures always found guarding such gates.
From the gate, we wander through the temple complex and on to Okuno-in to see Kukai’s mausoleum. This is a walk of 3.3 km. After you cross Ichi no hashi, or number one bridge, you walk for 2 km. through ancient cypress trees towering skywards and ancient tombstones, covered in moss, sinking into the soil.
Here there are the tombs of many historical figures. Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Oda Nobunaga for a start. I was struck by how muted these memorials were in contrast to the over the top extravagance of Tokugawa Ieyasu temple,Toshogu at Nikko. Perhaps I am not comparing like with like?
At the end of the of the long avenue of cypress and tombstones is the temple dedicated to Kukai, who, apparently, is sitting in eternal meditation. Inside there is darkness and candlelight, incense and lots of hanging brass lanterns. One donated by the Emperor Shirakawa, and, surprisingly, one by Emperor Showa, or Hirohito.
We are lucky in our timing as a monk begins chanting adding to the mystique of the place.
On our way back, the lights housed in the stone lanterns along the path are beginning to be illuminated. Pretty, but it is not dark enough to make the scene dramatic. Along this path we follow a young couple who frequently stop to take pictures of each other. We stop also to avoid stepping into their photos. Not once do they acknowledge this courtesy.
Back in the car, we wind down the mountain in a stream of traffic and then head for Kudoyama michi no eki. This is a large place where we have stayed before. There is a supermarket a short drive away and, with dinner secured, we put up the shades and retire for the night.
The author is a long term resident of Japan who has and continues to travel the country extensively. Avoiding highways where possible, the author has driven from Kagoshima in Kyushu to Wakanai in Hokkaido covering 20,000 plus kilometres and counting.